Conservation in a Changing Climate
Northeast Region

Climate Change in the Northeast: 

  1. Hydrologic Changes and Impact
  2. Aquatic Resources
  3. Terrestrial Systems
  4. Forest Ecosystems
  5. Coasts and Coastal Wetlands

To view the powerpoint presentations from these sessions, please visit our Conference Powerpoints page.

June 3, 2008

Concurrent Session 1A
Hydrologic Changes and Impacts

Climate-related changes on New England lakes and rivers during the last two centuries, Rob Dudley, Glenn Hodgkins, Tom Huntington, USGS Maine Water Science Center

Projected climate change and hydrologic impacts over the U.S. Northeast:Results from the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, Justin Sheffield, Princeton University

Effect of climate change on the Connecticut River Watershed, Effect of climate change on the Connecticut River Watershed, Timothy Randhir, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources Conservation

Key Issues

  • Multiple participants expressed concern over what they perceived to be a disconnect between global climate modeling, downscaling methods, model output/projections on worldwide and regional scales, etc. and active, adaptive management of natural resources and implementation conservation practices  at watershed scales. Many wanted to see this scientific research be better integrated into actual conservation measures. Can different conservation scenarios be integrated into hydrologic models to evaluate the effectiveness of different conservation measures in context of different climatic regimes?
  • Many noted that it is increasingly essential to appreciate the cyclic nature of the hydrologic system, often characterized by spatially variable, multi-scaled temporal trends (i.e., Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation) and significant inter-annual variability. Consequently, there can be significant uncertainty in process-based models – meaning projections and subsequent quantification of those impacts is not a perfect science and users and resource managers “must” a develop tolerance for uncertainty. To assuage this, it may be possible to develop probabilistic projections and assigning confidence scores to predictions similar to weather forecasting. In the end, researchers need to develop “boundaries of expectations” and “confidence in those expectations”: what can resource managers “expect” in terms of precipitation change, runoff change, stream flow change, ice-out change, etc.
  • There is a clear need to revisit indicators of hydrologic systems, adopt effective indicators, and then systematically measure those parameters over different space and time scales (i.e. community to region, inter-annual to multi-decade).
  • General concern that management practices and decision-support tools are not generally available and or evolving with rapid advances in the scientific understanding of processes and potential impacts. Historically-recommended BMPs are not being implemented either. Some attributed this to the fact that public benefits, relative to costs, have not been adequately quantified and translated into economic terms.
  • Lackluster implementation of BMPs was also attributed to gaps in the current institutional framework that fails to provide structure/guidance on climate change issues. In hydrology, the traditional focus is on water quality versus water quantity or availability issues. Therefore, the governance/regulatory framework may need to evolve to deal with hydrologic problems associated with climate change.

Action Items

  • Develop scalable indicators that can be used to compare across hydrologic systems and evaluate temporal trends within watersheds/regions. Develop practical analytical tools that can be adopted by resource managers and used to monitor and assess hydrologic changes using observational data.
  • Develop and implement “sustainability report cards” to evaluate impacts and “hydrologic health” of natural systems over long-term
  • Explore improved regulatory scheme that is adaptive and reflects coupled-climate and hydrologic regime
  • Maintain and support further collection of observational data – expansion of both meteorological and hydrologic monitoring
  • Improve quantification of economic benefits of hydrologic BMPs to encourage further use by local and state governments
  • Encourage AWWA and similar professional societies to require climate change studies to address water supply and quality
  • Explore options to update TP-40 precipitation data

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Concurrent Session 1B
Aquatic Resources

Conserving spatial genetic diversity in a changing world: management tools for a heating planet, Kitty Griswold, Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center and University of Massachusetts Amherst

Potential Climate Change Impacts on MarineResources of the Northeastern United States, Michael J. Fogarty, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Conserving spatial genetic diversity in a changing world: management tools for a heating planet -
Kitty Griswold

Preserving genetic diversity preserves options for future decision making. The ecological considerations for freshwater and anadramous fish in the face of climate change include physiology, behavior, distribution status, life history, population dynamics and vulnerability to competition.  Effects from climate change include: temperature which can affect physiological and lifecycle events; timing of peak flows which can affect migration and nest flooding; summer drought which can affect juvenile survival and migration timing.  DNA based methods have advantages such as relative ease of collection and processing. The information you get is dependent on the scale that you look at.  Examples of cut throat trout study show that sites that were recently colonized have significantly lower genetic diversity.  Conservation genetics can provide useful tools to provide information for decision makers. Monitoring fish populations in rivers can determine genetically distinct populations as well as diversity within populations.  These tools can be potentially important for future changes, for example, to determine whether translocation projects should consist of a mix of unique stocks or whether introduced stocks are the right choice.  If genetic material is to be preserved, it should come from the oldest part of the population, which usually has the greatest diversity. 

Potential Climate Change Impacts on Marine Resources of the Northeast Continental Shelf - Michael Fogarty

Climate change impacts on marine systems include changes in salinity, current systems, stratification, frontal zones, upwelling, turbulence and productivity thus affecting marine ecosystem services.  Commercially important species such as lobster and cod have temperature thresholds for growth, survival and reproductive success.  As ocean temperatures increase, the range of habitat for important marine resources such as cod and lobsters is projected to shift to the north.  The waters of Georges Bank are expected to approach the maximum temperature threshold for cod under a high emission scenario during this century.  This may force cod to cooler waters thus reducing productivity and sustainability of the cod fishery and northward migration of species such as croaker.  Lobsters are also expected to decline in the waters of Long Island Sound and Cape Cod due to lose of thermal habitat.  Studies such as GLOBEC and others ocean system monitoring studies can contribute to the mechanistic understanding of living marine ecosystems.  

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Concurrent Session 1C
Terrestrial Systems

An Introduction to Phenology and the Northeast Regional Phenology Network (NE-RPN), Ellen Denny, NE-RPN, Andrew D. Richardson, University of New Hampshire, Brenden McNeil, University of Wisconsin, Madison


  • The study of the periodic biological phenomenal, such as flowering, breeding and migration in relation to climatic conditions (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • Ubiquitous and cyclical
  • Not just the domain of naturalists, but a true science
  • Phonological events: examples
    • Trout lily after snow melt takes advantage before leaf out
    • Spring peeper emerges in late March
    • Northern Yukon area, the Porcupine caribou herd migration across tundra
    • Flowering cherry trees 
    • Hatching of birds and emergence of insects; some plants adapt phenology strategies to reduce herbivory (delayed leaf emergence)
    • Phenology of insects, birds and plants are triggered to different environmental cues; climate change could make these more synonymous
    • Butterfly emergence and migration hinges on temperature
  • Phenology affects crop production and harvest rates.
  • Bird migration after bud emergence and woody plants
  • In NE, autumn color event major phenological event; different species have different timings
  • Why do we care to monitor phenology?
    • To help predict crop production, tourisim (fall colors), regulationo of ecosystem processes
    • Species ranges, food cycling, productivity all affected
    • General patterns: Warming is causing spring to come out earlier and autumn is coming later
    • Phenology of plants, birds, fish and insects all sensitive to change
    • Rates of change vary among functional types
    • Possibility of asynchronous pheneology
  • Spatial variation in phenology:
  • Spring onset varies by 2 months across NE
  • Strong gradients from north to south and maritimes to the continent
  • Temporal variation in phenology:
  • In 2001 early spring, in 2005 late spring, in 2002 it was early on the coast and late in western areas
    • Phenology modeling
  • What triggers bud burst
  • Canopy duration and its affect on carbon sequestration
    • A Brief History of the NE-RPN (
  • Northeastern Ecosystem Research Cooperative (NERC)
  • USA National Phenology Network identified four levels of monitoring/observations; coordinating to provide database and cyberinfrastructure
  • Initial focus is plant phenology
    • What is the status of the Network now?
  • Developing a network of protocols to use in monitoring
  • 3 tiers of program depending on experience, funding, technical capability, intensity
  • Citizen science is important (e.g. Project Budburst); is a natural connection; requires no special equipment; increases awareness of world around them; provides additional data points
  • Next level is core protocols; requires some plant sampling expertise
  • NPN intensive sampling protocols; requires even more plant expertise; more time commitment; sampling phenophases (flowering, leaf out, etc) for deciduous trees
  • Webcam phenology network in place
  • Keeping track of visual changes in phenology by analyzing red/green channel can time spring
  • How you can participate?
    • Get on NE-RPN email list
    • Start monitoring at home, do just one tree
    • Pub up webcam at your site
    • Give us your feedback and voice your needs as land managers; bottom up process; need to generate discussion on what information would be valuable for land managers

What kind of metadata is being collected? Sometimes the location of the plant (e.g. near a building, slope, orientation, aspect, tree canopy, elevation, etc) might influence phenology.  Yes, all these variables are being collected.  Agree specific

How long before you feel you feel you have meaningful results? Have you looked at historic journals?  Yes, looking at historic journals and data from Hubbard Brook and other research sites.  Will need to collect information for a couple years at least, depends on your question. If its carbon sequestion, we might take data for a while.

What about incorporating animal phenology? Yes, we started with plants because this was the interest in the NE, but we hope to expand to animals.  Thinking of starting mayflies and fish soon.   

Are there other regional nodes besides the NE? Do all the regional nodes cooperate in developing protocols or are they dictated from the top down? NE is most organized. The SW is just getting started. FL is trying to get started, but haven’t secured funding.  The NPN dependent on regional nodes to make it happen.


Current and future impacts of climate change in terrestrial ecosystems and the importance of landscape-scale management, Dr. Catherine E. Burns, University of Maine

Temps are rising; models project temps will rise over the next few decades
By 2050 across US some pretty substantial changes in temp
With changes in temps; major changes in ecosystems; in NE different model projections, but all predict major shifts
Shifts are occurring at a more rapid rate than every before; many species will not be able to adapt to how rapid the change is

How will terrestrial wildlife species respond?
The northern ranges of many species are temperature-limited. Some spp have a very narrow range (e.g eastern phoebe).  Phoebes range will be able to expand its range to the north and west

Vast majority of species studied are already shifting ranges generally to the north and very few to the south. Northern boundaries are expanding, distribution is getting larger (southern boundary not truncating). Example is hooded warbler. BBS data over 26 year period indicated 27 species expanded northward. Avg shift was 2.35 km/year.  No significant shift south.

More observed range shifts in other taxa (insects, mammals, marine invertebrates). Where ever we look, getting shift in species ranges to the north.

Implications of climate change for protected areas: predicted wildlife responses in the future? Study looked at National Parks. Looked at eight national parks across the country. Looked at mammals and modeled their current habitat associations. Next, they projected changes in major ecosystem types to predict future mammal distributions.  Point was to determine how the location of parks would provide for these mammal in the future.

Generally, species lost ranged from 1 to 10.  Lots of species gains across the study areas.  Some significant changes in species composition, but might have more species in the future than we do now. However, some of the species losses are iconic losses. Flying squirrel, fisher, ringtail. By taxa, mostly rodents were lost.  Bottom line is influx of new species vs loss.

Looked at other studies to see if this held true in other areas. In Mexico, models indicate the same effect (increase in species richness).

Range shifts are only one part of the issue.

Changes in breeding phenology are also an issue. Temp changes of .5 to 1 degeree C; 31% of 65 birds in UK are breeding 9 days earlier. Amphibians breeding 2-7 weeks in advance of historic breeding schedules. Insect species to pass through larval development faster becoming adults earlier, with implications for pest management. Invertebrate herbivores may increase consumption of resources by as much at 50%. 

Altered breeding phenology affects birds by creating a mismatch between bird breeding dates and insect emergence
Great tit is an example.  Hatching is timed with emergence of insects; as spring gets warmer earlier, the birds are laying eggs earlier, but insects are not emerging earlier.
Another example is robin. It cues to move from winter range to breeding ground timed with optimal insect production. Different cues in winter range are triggering both earlier and later migration which causes them to breed outside the optimal time for foraging

Mammals are more difficult to model; could look at large weather patterns
North American Osscilating (sp?) mimics effects of global warming; years of warm temp and low snowfall.  Looking at wolf/moose interactions on Isle Royale. High snowfall: wolvers are efficient predators of moose and balsam fir does well. Low snowfall: wolves are inefficient predators, and moose cause considerable damage to balsam fir. More moose lead to more open and dry forest understory leading to higher risk of forest fires and changes in forest species composition 

Climate change leads to changes in (some of which have never been seen before):

  • species distributions
  • phenological changes
  • species interactions

Most of previous discussion assumed animals could move freely. What about in Central Park? If they can’t move and cant adapt will likely go extinct?

What can we do?
Preserving and creating connectivity at a regional scale is key
Continue to pursue and learn from existing landscape scale projects, e.g. Yukon to Yosemite (Y2Y).  Allows north to south movement (e.g.  Adirondack to Algonquin (S Ontario)).

Effects of climate change are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of stressors:

  • Large scale habitat loss/fragmentation
  • Invasive species
  • Pollution
  • Disease

Reduction of stressors across the NE will enhance the ability for wildlife species to cope with climate change

Many protected areas likely to lose species, including iconic species (lynx and moose). But on whole they will also gain new species if we manage to allow movement across landscape

Species composition will be significantly altered, as will interactions between species: new predator/pre, competitive, host/parasite interactions
Successful management requires facilitating wildlife responses, eg. movement, and working together with other partners at larger spatial scales

Is management of invasive species a lost cause? Response: No. It’s a complex story. Its frustrating to not have all the predictive information. Minimizing impact of invasive species is helping to reduce one of the stressors.

Is there a situation where you would not want north-south movement? Where you want to create barriers? Response: Its subjective; depends on your perspective. We’ve created this situation and need to allow nature to take its course and allow nature to respond naturally.

Species turnover estimates. Are the species turnover predictions the result of applying an abiotic function of something like temperature? Response: No, animals were associated with a certain vegetation type and where vegetation types are predicted to change, then species will change.  Agree that there are other factors that will complicate this prediction, like new predator-prey interactions.

You say that most ranges will shift northward, what is that going to do to species richness in southern latitudes? Response: In lower latitudes, expect that conditions will not change as dramatically over the next few decades compared to the northern latitudes. No huge losses in species richness, but also not the gains predicted for northern latitudes.

The Future Range of Variability: Synergistic effects of climate change, land use and invasive species, Brenda McComb, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

New challenges:

  • Future range of variability as a concept to guide management goals
  • Synergistic effects of land use, invasive species, and climate change on biodiversity conservation

New roles:

  • Working with no analog conditions; species may interact in novel ways

New Tools

  • Envisioning synergistic effects and no analog conditions
  • Applying a Cultural Range of Acceptability (CRV)

Historic Range of Variability (HRV)

  • Defines as the estimated range of some ecological condition that occurred in the past.  State of persistence.
  • Denotes a dynamic set of boundaries between which most native biodiversity variables were historically able to persist, with fluctuations, through time and space. Introducing a novel disturbance may reduce variability.  This causes risk to losing species and/or processes.

Historic changes in structural class in forests based on fire return intervals and/or such ecological processes such as hurricane patterns, can be modeled to help represent HRV. 

We have departed from the historic range of variability, so what does this mean. What will happen to variability and what is the new state? How do you predict the future?

Future Range of Variability (FRV)
The estimated range of some ecological condition or process that may occur in the future. A set of boundaries on some condition or process that may occur in the future.

Landscape dynamics under current land use policies can be projected into the future. Looked at multi-ownership pattern and their land use policies in Oregon Coast range projected the results of forest management into future.  Project changes in land cover types.  Interestingly, over decades it was difficult to distinguish the public land from the private lands. This land cover type change has implications to wildlife. Land ownership policies are major influence.

Drivers of ecosystem dynamics include land development, invasive species, land uses (e.g. forest management), significant natural ecological events (e.g. hurricanes)   
If we project land use changes out over next 75 years it would help us prioritize NOW where to put our attention to conservation/protection. We can predict where development/deforestation will occur.  

Land use changes have had a major effect historically on Massachusetts forest biodiversity.  Nearly all forests had been cleared by late 1800s, although much has regrown. Now over 40 acres per day is converted from forest to developed environments.

New challenges

  • Invasive species likely to increase as a problem (e.g. hemlock wooly adelgid, earthworms
  • Joint effects on biodiversity from deforestation and invasive species;
  • Biotic homogenization: the gradual replacement of native biotas by locally expanding non-natives is a global process that diminishes floral and faunal distinctions among regions

Climate change has influenced vegetation in the past. Impacts to vegetation from past changes in regional temperature is well documented. Other effects from global temp changes is documented by IPCC (e.g. water availability and major ecosystem changes). Vegetation patterns will continue to change. Invasive species adapt easily and will invade and affect basic ecosystem properties and can affect global change.

Climate Change in the Northeast

  • Temps in Massachusetts will resemble South Carolina under some high emissions scenarios

New Roles: Working with Analog Systems
Hargrove and Hoffman 2000 (Canadian Climate Centrer): looked at 25 environmental variables that occur in US and projected them into the future to 2099. Env extinctions occurred, but more often, new combinations or new environments with different mixtures of the 25 environmental conditions that do not currently exist.  No analog conditions occur in present ecosystems. These combinations were entirely new.

Conceptualizing Synergestic Effects on biodiversity from the combination of climate change, deforestation, and invasive species. Extent of the effect is dependent on the spatial and temporal scale of the system. Over a long enough time frame, or a large enough space, the concepts of FRV and HRV become less meaningful.

HRV is a useful concept to land managers. Up until the 1700s historic range of variability was contained within a well defined frame of reference. Contained within climate change effects/deforestation/invasive species effects

Around 1850 we had changed the landscape to the point there was no analog was known. The domain went beyond the HRV. It had reached a threshold where system no longer functions as we know it and HRV and FRV are no longer useful. System shifts to no analog system. HRv and FRV have limited utility for assessing risk. Risk of losing genes, species, or natural processes.

New Tools: Making Decisions in an Uncertain Future
Social perceptions of risk influence ability to reduce effects.  Public perceptions held that land use was the problem in recent years.  Now, people recognize climate change as a problem, however they haven’t caught up to the science as to the level of risk. 

As we project things out, we lead into time the uncertainty.  Need to take action to the extent society will let us take it. “socially negotiated threshold of utility.”  Can model historical range of variability, use this to predict future range of variability, then when trajectory goes where no analog exists, need to negotiate social threshold of utility. Trajectory of future paths influences conservation decision with history still relevant. Where uncertainty exists, principles and beliefs will influence conservation decisions.

May come back to first principles...

Integrating Human and “Natural” Disturbance

  • Bracket future trajectories (try to frame some bounds)
  • How do minima and maxima in FRV compare to HRV? What are desired future conditions?…
  • Understand what the cultural range of acceptability is. What range of conditions is society willing to accept? How will the CRA change over time? Is there departure between the CRA and FRV?

Linkages to biophysical resources: current approaches are

  • Landscape structure and composition: CAPS program (McGarigal et al at UMass)
  • Habitat for selected species
  • Forests: Vision for Mass Forest (policy initiative)
  • Aethestics: Tourism/quality of life
  • Water quality and quantity: public water supplies, fisheries, designated use


  • HRV is a useful concept, may provide a useful point of reference for some resources in some circumstances
  • The future will never be like the past, but perhaps we can use knowledge of past processes, knowledge of history AND the likely futures to inform decisions
  • Synergistic effects of climate change, latitudinal homogenization and land use likely will give rise to no analog ecosystems
  • Understanding current and future cultural ranges of acceptability is key to developing proactive approaches to minimize losses of biodiversity

Invasives are typically exotic. In future, as they migrate under the influence of climate change, might the invasive plants of concern actually be native species? How do we deal with that? How do we define invasives in the future? Are we looking at a new definition.? Response: This is true. We should be prepared for that.  Is that a problem? It depends on your viewpoint. We definitely need to be more concerned with exotic species now and in the future. But, can expect more globalization of species.

Native species becoming “invasives” will depend on human tolerances and preferences.  Part of the conversation should be about how we prepare society for likelihood of exotics that carry infectious diseases on people and animals (e.g. barred owls bringing avian malaria to spotted owls who are less tolerant of malaria)

Are we getting into a situation where changes are more complex than we can understand? Response: The uncertainty can be overwhelming, but doing nothing is not an acceptable solution. We need to monitor system changes at a minimum.  Perhaps then we can get enough information to make informed decisions in the future.  

Terrestrial Systems: Session 1C

1.  What are the key issues from this session?

  • Climate change leads to changes in the following (in combinations which have never been seen before) affecting all taxa:
    • species distributions (e.g. species tending to move north, expanding range)
    • phenological changes (e.g. timing of migrations, insect emergence, plant budding and flowering)
    • species interactions (e.g. predator/prey, competition for resources)
  • Important to study plant phenology changes for ecological, social and economic reasons including: crop production, tourism (fall colors), regulations of ecosystem processes, species range shifts, food cycling, and productivity which are all affected
  • Some phenological trends are: warming temps are causing spring (bud burst) to come out earlier and autumn (fall colors/leaf drop) is coming later; shifts are both spatial and temporal; rates of change vary among functional types. There is a possibility of asynchronous pheneology.
  • Vast majority of wildlife species studied are already shifting ranges generally to the north in response to climate change. Very few are shifting to the south. Northern range boundaries for those species are expanding, thereby expanding their total distribution, since their southern range boundaries are not truncating.
  • Many protected areas studied (8 national parks) likely to lose species with predicted temp increases, including some iconic species (lynx and moose). But on whole, the parks will also gain new species if we manage to allow movement across landscape. Species richness may actually increase, creating whole new assemblages. 
  • Synergistic effects of land use, invasive species, latitudinal homogenization, and projected climate change on biodiversity conservation are creating future conditions for which no analog exists. Extent of the effects is dependent on the spatial and temporal scale of the system.
  • Biotic homogenization the gradual replacement of native biotas by locally expanding non-natives, is a global process that diminishes floral and faunal distinctions among regions
  • Understanding current and future “cultural ranges of acceptability” is key to developing proactive approaches to minimizing losses of biodiversity. Social perceptions of “risk” influence ability to reduce effects and influence conservation action and decisions.  Where no analog exists, need to negotiate a “social threshold of utility” and risk.

2. Can you identify action items and any institutional changes/connections/tools needed to accomplish this?

  • Managing to minimize the following stressors will help reduce the effects of climate change on wildlife:
    • Large scale habitat loss/fragmentation
    • Invasive species
    • Pollution
    • Disease
  • Historic Range of Variability will continue to be a useful concept despite projected dramatic changes resulting from climate change.  It will still provide a useful point of reference for land managers for evaluating some resources in some circumstances.

The future will never be like the past, but we can use knowledge of past processes, knowledge of land use history AND the likely futures to inform our decisions.

  • Preserving and creating land connectivity at a regional scale through partnerships is key.  Need to continue to pursue and learn from existing landscape-scale projects (e.g. Yukon to Yosemite (Y2Y) and Adirondack to Algonquin (S Ontario)) which allow north to south movement and migration.
  • Monitoring baseline resource conditions and the effects of management will be important.  Need to embrace concept of adaptive management. 
  • Monitoring phenology of plants and trees is an easy way to engage people in learning about the effects of climate change. NE-Regional Phenology Network (
  •  NE-RPN is also engaged in more rigorous studies of phenology, has developed protocols, and working on consolidated database for plant information. They also have web cam monitoring to look at time lapse changes.

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Concurrent Session 1D
Forest Ecosystems

Impacts of Climate & Hydrologic Changes: Implications for Northeastern U.S. Forests, T. G. Huntington, U.S. Geological Survey

Forest Carbon in the Northeast: Trees, Trends, Tools, Tactics, Coeli Hoover, USFS


Tom Huntington, Impacts of Climate and Hydrological Changes: Implications for Northeastern Forests, USGS in Maine

  • Tom distilled findings from the Northeast Climate Impact Analysis, which was a targeted resource assessment, conducted by  a consortium of academics and government agencies
  • Predicted changes include of this analysis and other research include:
    • .7 degree Celsius for 100-yr ending in 2000
    • slight increase in annual precipitation, but trend for increased intensity of higher precipitation storms
    • increased frequency of 1 month+ dry episodes
    • high spring flows 1-2 weeks earlier
    • intensification of water cycle, greater evapotranspiration
    • certain warming is inevitable, effects of mitigation efforts now (or lack thereof) will be seen in 2050 beyond
    • changes in plant leaf-out will have feedbacks on hydrologic cycle
    • increased susceptibility of forest ecosystems to native and non-native pests
    • changes in forest nutrient cycling
  • In summary, Opportunities include: increased growing season, increased N deposition and CO2 fertilization vs. Challenges include: drought, fire, extreme weather, insects

Coeli Hoover, Forest Carbon in the Northeast: Trees, Trends, Tools, Tactics, USFS, Durham, NH

  • Tools:
    • There are lots of tools available, use this website as a resource: /tools
    • Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)
      • Phase 1: remote
      • Phase 2: large array of perm plots
      • Phase 3: soil, coarse woody debris, etc.
    • COLE (Carbon On-Line Estimator)
    • FVS (Forest Vegetation Simulator) – helpful but very complicated to use, can predict a wide variety of forestry management outcomes, constantly being updated.
    • US Forest Service Experimental Forests have a rich legacy of long-term research studies; we can look back on this data and reinterpret/reexamine it to fulfill current science questions and management needs
    • Lots of tools to cover forest management on various scales, all of these can be found on the website ( /tools).

Highlight Questions:

  1. What are the key issues from this session? 
    • What are the pluses and minuses of biofuel development (from wood products)?
    • What are the implications and benefits of carbon trading for forests in the Northeast?
    • How do we acquire finer-scale data (which is expensive) and refine models to provide the information that is required at a local-level?
    • Urban forestry will become increasingly important, as the Northeast becomes more urbanized?
  2. Can you identify action items and any institutional changes/connections/tools needed to accomplish them?
    • Action items for biofuel: We need to assess the full life cycle impact of wood-based bioproducts (LCAs necessary).  Ideally, woody biomass/bioenergy would be carbon neutral; these fuels need to be used locally so that transportation doesn’t offset benefits; need to be mindful of biodiversity implications à monoculture forests for biofuels will provide little wildlife habitat, be more susceptible to disease, potentially more vulnerable to climate change 
    • Action items for carbon trading: It’s a promising possibility to help keep forests as forests, especially for small private orest landowners, but we need to rely on aggregators to step in and help provide economies of scale with respect establishing baselines, verifying stocks, etc. so that we keep transaction costs low enough to make it worthwhile.  As carbon prices currently stand, not incredibly lucrative, but it could be an important mechanism to help forest landowners pay taxes, pay for management, etc.  In the future (with fed regulation) we may see greater prices for carbon.  Also a possibility for keeping industrial land owners in business.
    • Action items for data and modeling: More data and finer-scale monitoring and model development/refinement requires an increase in funding; sometimes a small increase in data collection requires disproportionately large increases in funding.  But, in addition, how do we enable land managers to make management decisions without perfect information or models.
    • Action items for urban forestry: Urban trees and forests play an incredibly important role that must be recognized as more of the population lives in urban areas à that roles includes carbon sequestration, reduced heat island effect, reduced need for heating/cooling, micro-habitats for wildlife, and stopover habitats.

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Concurrent Session 1E
Coasts and Coastal Wetlands

Climate change for NE coastal ecosystems: coastal effects and vulnerability to sea-level rise, erosion, and storms, S. Jeffress Williams, USGS

The Tides of Change for Coastal Marshes - Adaptation Issues and Strategies for Climate change, Ron Rozsa, Dept. of Environmental Protection, State of Connecticut


What are the key issues from this session?
Can you identify action items and any institutional changes/connections/tools needed to accomplish them?

Sea-level Rise
Coastal Erosion
Adapting to Change / Restoration


  1. Identifying NE coastal areas most vulnerable to change.
  2. Conduct coastal vulnerability index assessments.
  3. Use of most Credible, Objective Science
    • Determine “tipping” points – changes of state
    •  Need Lidar-based DEM’s:  repeat every 5 to 10 years to monitor shoreline and coastal wetland change
    • Understand change processes – natural and anthropogenic
    • Review restoration successes, their longevity
    • Store seeds for restoration
  4. Evaluate strategies for remediating coastal erosion
    • Status Quo
    • Hard Engineering
    • Soft Engineering
    • Strategic Relocation / Retreat
  5. Need abundant, clear communication with citizens
  6. Employ Adaptive Management


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For a disk with many of these presentations, contact
Richard O. Bennett, Ph.D.
Regional Science Advisor
Northeast Region
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Last updated: December 16, 2011